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Bible Commentaries
Luke 14

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verse 1

It came to pass - It so happened or occurred.

As he went ... - It is probable that he was invited to go, being in the neighborhood Luke 14:12; and it is also probable that the Pharisee invited him for the purpose of getting him to say something that would involve him in difficulty.

One of the chief Pharisees - One of the Pharisees who were “rulers,” or members of the great council or the Sanhedrin. See the notes at Matthew 5:22. It does not mean that he was the head of the “sect” of the Pharisees, but one of those who happened to be a member of the Sanhedrin. He was, therefore, a man of influence and reputation.

To eat bread - To dine. To partake of the hospitalities of his house.

On the sabbath-day - It may seem strange that our Saviour should have gone to dine with a man who was a stranger on the Sabbath; but we are to remember:

  1. That he was traveling, having no home of his own, and that it was no more improper to go there than to any other place.
  2. That he did not go there for the purpose of feasting and amusement, but to do good.
  3. That as several of that class of persons were together, it gave him an opportunity to address them on the subject of religion, and to reprove their vices.

If, therefore, the example of Jesus should be pled to authorize accepting an invitation to dine on the Sabbath, it should be pled just as it was. If we can go “just as he did,” it is right. If when away from home; if we go to do good; if we make it an occasion to discourse on the subject of religion and to persuade people to repent, then it is not improper. Farther than this we cannot plead the example of Christ. And surely this should be the last instance in the world to be adduced to justify dinner-parties, and scenes of riot and gluttony on the Sabbath.

They watched him - They malignantly fixed their eyes on him, to see if he did anything on which they could lay hold to accuse him.

Verse 2

A certain man before him - In what way he came there we know not. He might have been one of the Pharisee’s family, or might have been placed there by the Pharisees to see whether he would heal him. This last supposition is not improbable, since it is said in Luke 14:1 that they watched him.

The dropsy - A disease produced by the accumulation of water in various parts of the body; very distressing, and commonly incurable.

Verse 3

Jesus, answering - To “answer,” in the Scriptures, does not always imply, as among us, that anything had been said before. It means often merely to “begin” or to take up a subject, or, as here, to remark on the case that was present.

Is it lawful ... - He knew that they were watching him. If he healed the man at once, they would accuse him. He, therefore, proposed the question to them, and when it was asked, they could not say that it was not lawful.

Verse 4

They held their peace - They were silent. They “could” not say it was not lawful, for the law did not forbid it. If it had they would have said it. Here was the time for them to make objections if they had any, and not after the man was healed; and as they “made” no objection “then,” they could not with consistency afterward. They were, therefore, effectually silenced and confounded by the Saviour.

He took him - Took hold of the man, or perhaps took him apart into another room. By taking hold of him, or touching him, he showed that the power of healing went forth from himself.

Verses 5-6

See the notes at Matthew 12:11.

Which of you ... - In this way Jesus refuted the notion of the Pharisees. If it was lawful to save an ox on the Sabbath, it was also to save the life of a man. To this the Jews had nothing to answer.

Verse 7

A parable - The word parable, here, means rather a “precept, an injunction.” He gave a “rule or precept” about the proper manner of attending a feast, or about the humility which ought to be manifested on such occasions.

That were bidden - That were invited by the Pharisee. It seems that he had invited his friends to dine with him on that day.

When he marked - When he observed or saw.

Chief rooms - The word “rooms” here does not express the meaning of the original. It does not mean “apartments,” but “the higher places” at the table; those which were nearest the head of the table and to him who had invited them. See the notes at Matthew 23:6. That this was the common character of the Pharisees appears from Matthew 23:6.

Verses 8-9

Art bidden - Are invited.

To a wedding - A wedding was commonly attended with a feast or banquet.

The highest room - The seat at the table nearest the head.

A more honourable man - A more aged man, or a man of higher rank. It is to be remarked that our Saviour did not consider the courtesies of life to be beneath his notice. His chief design here was, no doubt, to reprove the pride and ambition of the Pharisees; but, in doing it, he teaches us that religion does not violate the courtesies of life. It does not teach us to be rude, forward, pert, assuming, and despising the proprieties of refined social contact. It teaches humility and kindness, and a desire to make all happy, and a willingness to occupy our appropriate situation and rank in life; and this is true “politeness,” for true politeness is a desire to make all others happy, and a readiness to do whatever is necessary to make them so. They have utterly mistaken the nature of religion who suppose that because they are professed Christians, they must be rude and uncivil, and violate all the distinctions in society. The example and precepts of Jesus Christ were utterly unlike such conduct. He teaches us to be kind, and to treat people according to their rank and character. Compare Matthew 22:21; Rom 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17.

Verse 10

The lowest room - The lowest seat at the table; showing that you are not desirous of distinctions, or greedy of that honor which may properly belong to you.

Shalt have worship - The word “worship” here means “honor.” They who are sitting with you shall treat you with respect. They will learn your rank by your being invited nearer to the head of the table, and it will be better to learn it thus than by putting yourself forward. They will do you honor because you have shown a humble spirit.

Verse 11

Whosoever exalteth ... - This is universal among people, and it is also the way in which God will deal with people. “Men” will perpetually endeavor to bring down those who endeavor to exalt themselves; and it is a part of God’s regular plan to abase the proud, to bring down the lofty, to raise up those that be bowed down, and show “his” favors to those who are poor and needy.

Verse 12

Call not thy friends ... - This is not to be understood as commanding us not to entertain “at all” our relatives and friends; but we are to remember the “design” with which our Lord spoke. He intended, doubtless, to reprove those who sought the society of the wealthy, and particularly rich relatives, and those who claimed to be intimate with the great and honorable, and who, to show their intimacy, were in the habit of “seeking” their society, and making for them expensive entertainments. He meant, also, to commend charity shown to the poor. The passage means, therefore, call “not only” your friends, but call also the poor, etc. Compare Exodus 16:8; 1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Matthew 9:13.

Thy kinsmen - Thy relations.

A recompense - Lest they feel themselves bound to treat you with the same kindness, and, in so doing, neither you nor they will show any kind spirit, or any disposition to do good beyond what is repaid.

Verse 13

The poor - Those who are destitute of comfortable food.

The maimed - Those who are deprived of any member of their body, as an arm or a leg or who have not the use of them so that they can labor for their own support.

Verse 14

Shalt be blessed - Blessed in the “act” of doing good, which furnishes more “happiness” than riches can give, and blessed or rewarded “by God” in the day of judgment.

They cannot recompense thee - They cannot invite you again, and thus pay you; and by inviting “them” you show that you have a “disposition” to do good.

The resurrection of the just - When the just or holy shall be raised from the dead. Then “God” shall reward those who have done good to the poor and needy from love to the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:34-36.

Verse 15

Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God - The kingdom of God here means the kingdom which the Messiah was to set up. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. The Jews supposed that he would be a temporal prince, and that his reign would be one of great magnificence and splendor. They supposed that the “Jews” then would be delivered from all their oppressions, and that, from being a degraded people, they would become the most distinguished and happy nation of the earth. To that period they looked forward as one of great happiness. There is some reason to think that they supposed that the ancient just people would then be raised up to enjoy the blessings of the reign of the Messiah. Our Saviour having mentioned the “resurrection of the just,” this man understood it in the common way of the Jews, and spoke of the special happiness which they expected at that time. The Jews “only,” he expected, would partake of those blessings. Those notions the Saviour corrects in the parable which follows.

Verse 16

A great supper - Or great feast. It is said to be “great” on account of the number who were invited.

Bade many - Invited many beforehand. There is little difficulty in understanding this parable. The man who made the supper is, without doubt, designed to represent God; the supper, the provisions which he has made for the salvation of people; and the invitation, the offers which he made to people, particularly to the Jews, of salvation. See a similar parable explained in the notes at Matthew 22:1-14.

Verse 17

Sent his servant - An invitation had been sent before, but this servant was sent at the time that the supper was ready. From this it would seem that it was the custom to announce to those invited just the time when the feast was prepared. The custom here referred to still prevails in Palestine. Dr. Thomson (“The Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 178) says: “If a sheikh, beg, or emeer invites, he always sends a servant to call you at the proper time. This servant often repeats the very formula mentioned in Luke 14:17; Tefŭddŭlû, el 'asha hâder. Come, for the supper is ready. The fact that this custom is mainly confined to the wealthy and to the nobility is in strict agreement with the parable, where the certain man who made the great supper and bade many is supposed to be of this class. It is true now, as then, that to refuse is a high insult to the maker of the feast, nor would such excuses as those in the parable be more acceptable to a Druse emeer than they were to the lord of this ‘great supper.’“

Verse 18

I have bought a piece of ground - Perhaps he had purchased it on condition that he found it as good as it had been represented to him.

I must needs go - I have necessity, or am obliged to go and see it; possibly pleading a contract or an agreement that he would go soon and examine it. However, we may learn from this that sinners sometimes plead that they are under a “necessity” to neglect the affairs of religion. The affairs of the world, they pretend, are so pressing that they cannot find time to attend to their souls. They have no time to pray, or read the Scriptures, or keep up the worship of God. In this way many lose their souls. God cannot regard such an excuse for neglecting religion with approbation. He commands us to seek “first” the kingdom of God and his righteousness, nor can he approve any excuse that people may make for not doing it.

Verse 19

I go to prove them - To try them, to see if he had made a good bargain. It is worthy of remark that this excuse was very trifling. He could as easily have tried them at any other time as then, and his whole conduct shows that he was more disposed to gratify “himself” than to accept the invitation of his friend. He was selfish; just as all sinners are, who, to gratify their own worldliness and sins, refuse to accept the offers of the gospel.

Verse 20

I have married a wife ... - Our Saviour here doubtless intends to teach us that the love of earthly relatives and friends often takes off the affections from God, and prevents our accepting the blessings which he would bestow on us. This was the most trifling excuse of all; and we cannot but be amazed that “such” excuses are suffered to interfere with our salvation, and that people can be satisfied for “such” reasons to exclude themselves from the kingdom of God.

Verse 21

Showed his lord - Told his master of the excuses of those who had been invited. Their conduct was remarkable, and it was his duty to acquaint him with the manner in which his invitation had been received.

Being angry - Being angry at the people who had slighted his invitation; who had so insulted him by neglecting his feast, and preferring “for such reasons” their own gratification to his friendship and hospitality. So it is no wonder that God is angry with the wicked every day. So foolish as well as wicked is the conduct of the sinner, so trifling is his excuse for not repenting and turning to God, that it is no wonder if God cannot look upon their conduct but with abhorrence.

Go out quickly - The feast is ready. There is no time to lose. They who partake of it must do it soon. So the gospel is ready; time flies; and they who partake of the gospel must do it soon, and they who preach it must give diligence to proclaim it to their fellow-men.

The streets and lanes of the city - The places where the poor, etc., would be found. Those first invited were the rich, who dwelt at ease in their own houses. By these the Jews were intended; by those who were in the streets, the Gentiles. Our Lord delivered this parable to show the Jews that the Gentiles would be called into the kingdom of God. They despised the Gentiles, and considered them cast out and worthless, as they did those who were in the lanes of the city.

The maimed ... - See the notes at Luke 14:13.

Verse 22

Yet there is room - He went out and invited all he found in the lanes, and yet the table was not full. This he also reported to his master. “There is room!” What a glorious declaration is this in regard to the gospel! There yet is room. Millions have been saved, but there yet is room. Millions have been invited, and have come, and have gone to heaven, but heaven is not yet full. There is a banquet there which no number can exhaust; there are fountains which no number can drink dry; there are harps there which other hands may strike; and there are seats there which others may occupy. Heaven is not full, and there yet is room. The Sunday school teacher may say to his class, there yet is room; the parent may say to his children, there yet is room; the minister of the gospel may go and say to the wide world, there yet is room. The mercy of God is not exhausted; the blood of the atonement has not lost its efficacy; heaven is not full. What a sad message it “would” be if we were compelled to go and say, “There is no more room - heaven is full - not another one can be saved. No matter what their prayers, or tears, or sighs, they cannot be saved. Every place is filled; every seat is occupied.” But, thanks be to God, this is not the message which we are to bear; and if there yet is room, come, sinners, young and old, and enter into heaven. Fill up that room, that heaven may be full of the happy and the blessed. If any part of the universe is to be vacant, O let it be the dark world of woe!

Verse 23

Go out into the highways - Since enough had not been found in the lanes and streets, he commands the servant to go into the roads - the public highways out of the city, as well as to the streets “in” it - and invite them also.

Hedges - A hedge is the inclosure around a field or vineyard. It was commonly made of thorns, which were planted thick, and which kept the cattle out of the vineyard. “A common plant for this purpose is the prickly pear, a species of cactus, which grows several feet high, and as thick as a man’s body, armed with sharp thorns, and thus forming an almost impervious defense” (Professor Hackett, “Scripture Illustrations,” p. 174). Those in the hedges were poor laborers employed in planting them or trimming them - people of the lowest class and of great poverty. By his directing them to go first into the streets of the city and then into the highways, we are not to understand our Saviour as referring to different classes of people, but only as denoting the “earnestness” with which God offers salvation to people, and his willingness that the most despised should come and live. Some parts of parables are thrown in for the sake of “keeping,” and they should not be pressed or forced to obtain any obscure or fanciful signification. The great point in this parable was, that God would call in the Gentiles after the Jews had rejected the gospel. This should be kept always in view in interpreting all the parts of the parable.

Compel them - That is, urge them, press them earnestly, one and all. Do not hear their excuses on account of their poverty and low rank of life, but urge them so as to overcome their objections and lead them to the feast. This expresses the “earnestness” of the man; his anxiety that his table should be filled, and his purpose not to reject any on account of their poverty, or ignorance, or want of apparel. So God is earnest in regard to the most polluted and vile. He commands his servants, his ministers, to “urge” them to come, to “press” on them the salvation of the gospel, and to use all the means in their power to bring into heaven poor and needy sinners.

Verse 24

For I say unto you - These may be considered as the words of Jesus, making an application of the parable to the Pharisees before him.

None of those men - This cannot be understood as meaning that no “Jews” would be saved, but that none of those who had “treated him, in that manner” - none who had so decidedly rejected the offer of the gospel - would be saved. We may here see how dangerous it is “once” to reject the gospel; how dangerous to grieve away the Holy Spirit. How often God forsakes forever the sinner who has been once awakened, and who grieves the Holy Spirit. The invitation is full and free; but when it is rejected, and people turn willfully away from it, God leaves them to their chosen way, and they are drowned in destruction and perdition. How important, then, is it to embrace the gospel “at once;” to accept the gracious invitation, and enter without delay the path that conducts to heaven!

Verses 25-27

See notes on Matthew 10:37-38.

Verse 28

Intending to build a tower - See Matthew 21:33. A tower was a place of defense or observation, erected on high places or in vineyards, to guard against enemies. It was made “high,” so as to enable one to see an enemy when he approached; and “strong,” so that it could not be easily taken.

Counteth the cost - Makes a calculation how much it will cost to build it.

Verse 29

Haply - Perhaps.

To mock him - To ridicule him. To laugh at him.

Verse 31

With ten thousand to meet ... - Whether he will be able, with the forces which he “has,” to meet his enemy. Christ here perhaps intends to denote that the enemies which we have to encounter in following him are many and strong, and that “our” strength is comparatively feeble. “To meet him.” To contend with him. To gain a victory over him.

Verse 32

Or else - If he is not able. If he is satisfied that he would be defeated.

An ambassage - Persons to treat with an enemy and propose terms of peace. These expressions are not to be improperly pressed in order to obtain from them a spiritual signification. The general scope of the parable is to be learned from the connection, and may be thus expressed:

1. Every man who becomes a follower of Jesus should calmly and deliberately look at all the consequences of such an act and be prepared to meet them.

2. Men in other things act with prudence and forethought. They do not begin to build without a reasonable prospect of being able to finish. They do not go to war when there is every prospect that they will be defeated.

3. Religion is a work of soberness, of thought, of calm and fixed purpose, and no man can properly enter on it who does not resolve by the grace of God to fulfil all its requirements and make it the business of his life.

4. We are to expect difficulties in religion. It will cost us the mortification of our sins, and a life of self-denial, and a conflict with our lusts, and the enmity and ridicule of the world. Perhaps it may cost us our reputation, or possibly our lives and liberties, and all that is dear to us; but we must cheerfully undertake all this, and be prepared for it all.

5. If we do not deliberately resolve to leave all things, to suffer all things that may be laid on us, and to persevere to the end of our days in the service of Christ, we cannot be his disciples. No man can be a Christian who, when he makes a profession, is resolved after a while to turn back to the world; nor can he be a true Christian if he “expects that he will” turn back. If he comes not with a “full” purpose “always” to be a Christian; if he means not to persevere, by the grace of God, through all hazards, and trials, and temptations; if he is not willing to bear his cross, and meet contempt, and poverty, and pain, and death, without turning back, he “cannot” be a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Verses 34-35

See the Matthew 5:13 note; Mark 9:49-50 notes.

Salt is good - It is useful. It is good to preserve life and health, and to keep from putrefaction.

His savour - Its saltness. It becomes tasteless or insipid.

Be seasoned - Be salted again.

Fit for the land - Rather, it is not fit “for land,” that is, it will not bear fruit of itself. You cannot sow or plant on it.

Nor for the dunghill - It is not good for manure. It will not enrich the land,

Cast it out - They throw it away as useless.

He that hath ears ... - See Matthew 11:15. You are to understand that he that has not grace in his heart; who merely makes a profession of religion, and who sustains the same relation to true piety that this insipid and useless mass does to good salt, is useless in the church, and will be rejected. “Real” piety, true religion, is of vast value in the world. It keeps it pure, and saves it from corruption, as salt does meat; but a mere “profession” of religion is fit for nothing. It does no good. It is a mere encumbrance, and all such professors are fit only to be cast out and rejected. All such “must” be rejected by the Son of God, and cast into a world of wretchedness and despair. Compare Matthew 7:22-23; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 23:30; Matthew 25:30; Revelation 3:16; Job 8:13; Job 36:13.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 14". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/luke-14.html. 1870.
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